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God, the great Governor of the world, in testimony of his high displeasure against mankind for their apostacy from him, has spread miseries and calamities all round the earth. From the king upon the throne to the beggar on the dung-hill, there is not one but has a greater or lesser share in the troubles of life; and many have their days filled up with sorrows. And now murmurings arise all round this guilty world, and the general cry is, "Nobody meets with such troubles as I do. I am very hardly dealt with." But the law teaches us that God is holy in all these his ways, and righteous in all these his works; and that we are all punished far less than we deserve; and so our complaints are silenced, and our hearts quieted into humble submission, and it appears infinitely fit, a rebellious world should be full of wo, that we might learn that it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake the Lord.
But, at the same time, God, the great Lord of all, out of his boundless goodness through Jesus Christ, reprieves mankind from the threatened ruin: strews common mercies with a liberal hand all round the earth; sends rain and fruitful seasons, and fills the hearts of ail, more or less, with food and gladness; and to some he grants his special grace, makes them his children, and entitles them to eternal life. And thus he is the Saviour of all men, but especially of those that believe. 1 Tim. iv. 10. Yet this goodness of God is but little taken notice of in the world. But the law, while it discovers what we are, and how unworthy and hell-deserving we are, makes us sensible of the freeness and riches of God's grace in these kindnesses. For, while we feel that hell is our proper due, every thing that renders our case better than that of the damned, we shall accept as a choice mercy, and as an effect of free grace; and so, instead of being always in a murmuring and repining disposition, we shall be always wondering at the goodness, adiniring at the kindness of the Lord; saying, with good Jacob, We are not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant, Gen. xxxii. 10.; and with the Jewish Church, O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. Psalm cxxxvi. And we shall always find that the more senable we are of our unworthiness and ill desert, the more
cause we shall see for thankfulness, let our outward circumstances in this life be what they will. But,
USE V. In the last place, let all that has been said be improved, by way of exhortation, to excite and engage the people of God more and more to renounce themselves, the world, and sin, and give up themselves to God, to love him, and live to him, and delight in him, with all their hearts, for ever.
You have seen what grounds you have to do so, arising from God's infinite greatness, glory, and excellence; and you have been viewing your superadded obligations. And is the Lord such a God, and is he your God and Redeemer? O how strongly are you bound to keep all his commandments! And what is it, O believer, that the Lord thy God requireth of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul? And is there not, in keeping his commands, a great reward? Did you ever taste such sweetness as in a life of devotedness to God? And have not your wanderings from him cost you many a bitter and mournful hour? O, how happy would you be, if once you could come to it, to have done with every thing else, and to be wholly the Lord's! Seriously consider these things:
1. That you can come to it, to have done with every thing else, and be wholly the Lord's, at least in a vastly greater degree than ever yet you have. See Phil. iii. 13, 14. You actually already have God working in you to will and to do. Phil. ii. 13. He has always been, as it were, labouring to humble you, and wean you from the world, and bring you nearer to himself, to love him, live to him, and delight in him, ever since the day you first came to know him, by the outward dispensations of his providence, and by the inward strivings of his spirit. He has always been purging you, that you might bring forth more fruit. John xv. 2. Yea, this was the very design of Christ's coming into the world, that he might deliver you out of the hands of all your enemies, and bring you to serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all the days of your life; Luke i. 74.; and that he might redeem you from all iniquity, and purify you to himself, that you might be peculiarly his, and zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14. And for this end, God has
already taken, as it were, infinite pains with you, and this is what he is continually urging you unto, and he declares that he is readier to give you his Holy Spirit, than earthly parents are to give bread to their children, and invites, and encourages, and commands you to ask. Mat. vii. 7, &c. And will you not now, therefore, arise, and put on the whole armour of God, and make your strongest efforts to recover from sin to God?
God, the great King of heaven and earth, commands you to do so: Jesus the kind Mediator, invites you to do so; and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, is ready to help you. Arise, therefore, and be of good courage, for the Lord is with you. Did you ever stir up yourself to seek after God in vain, or set about a life of greater seriousness, watchfulness, and prayer, and find no advantage by it? Or have you not always said, in the conclusion, that it is good for me to draw near to God. (Psalm lxxiii. 28.) and condemned and hated yourself for your former slackness, and been ready to resolve, from your inmost soul, that you would call upon the Lord as long as you live? Psalm cxvi. 2.
And let me put it to your conscience, do not you believe, that, if now you would gird up the loins of your mind, and quit yourself like a man, and be strong, that, through Christ's strengthening of you, you may do all things? And shall carelessness or stupidity; shall laziness and sloth; shall the allurements or the discouragements of the world or the devil, now, after all, hinder you? What! when you have been redeemed, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Son of God; when your prison-door is flung open, and your chains knocked off, and you called and invited to come out into the glorious liberty of the children of God, and when God is actually striving with you already, and stands ready to afford you further help, what, now be hindered! What, and be hindered by carelessness, unwatchfulness, &c.! What, shall the Saviour groan in the garden, and die on the cross, and yet you lie sleeping here! What, asleep! What, content without God in the world! What, when the whole army of prophets, apostles, and martyrs, have fasted and prayed all their days, and waded through a sea of blood at last! Methinks you had bet
tet abandon every mortal delight, lay aside every weight and the sin that more easily besets you, and mourn, and weep, and watch, and pray, and fight, and strive, as long as you live, than act so far beneath the dignity and character of a christian.
It is but a few in the world that truly know God, and the way of access to him, through Jesus Christ, and are in a (spiritual) capacity to live a life of devotedness to God, and communion with him: most men are dead in sin. But you hath he quickened, and you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works; and it is God's design you should walk in them: you that were without Christ, and without God in the world, afar off, are now brought nigh; and you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God: for this cause I therefore beseech you, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called. See this argument enlarged upon in the second, third, and fourth chapters of the epistles to the Ephesians, and your duties still more particularly delineated in the fifth and sixth.
2. Consider, that as your case is circumstanced, it is absolutely impossible for you ever to find any other resting place but God, or ever take any satisfying comfort of your life, but in a way of devotedness to God and communion with him. The case is not with you, O believer, as it is with other men. You, only, have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities, said God to his ancient people. Mic. iii. 2. But the other nations of the earth might worship idols, and serve wood and stone, and go on and prosper, without being called to a present account; and so it is as to particular persons. Bastards, who have no parents to own them and bring them up, may, as for any restraints from parental authority, do what they will. They that do not belong to God's family, may live from home as long as they please, and, because they have no interest in his house, may, in respect of divine permission, go and live where they please; may continue to lie out from God: but whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Heb. xii. 6. Hypocrites may lose their reli
gion, and lie dead whole months and years together, and return with the dog to his vomit, and take as much comfort in the world and their lusts as ever; but it is impossible that you should: you can never get your conscience asleep as other men's are, or your heart content to lie out from God, or wring yourself out of your father's hand, or get out of the reach of his rod.
Solomon once seemed resolved to find another resting-place for his heart besides God, and something else to take coinfort in, and he was under the best outward advantages to make a thorough trial that ever man was; but he never did, and never could but was always like a bone out of joint, or like the needle of a compass turned aside from its beloved star. Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. And poor David, how was he pained with anguish of spirit for the sin whereby he provoked the Lord? Psalm xxxii. 3, &c. While I kept silence, (i. e. before Nathan came who brought me to an open confession; see ver. 5.) my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer. And neve, d d a believer depart from God to seek another resting-place, or go away from the fountain of living waters to get something else to take comfort in; but God hedged up his way with thorns, and made a wall, that he could not find his paths. So that although he followed after his lovers, he never overtook them; and though he sought them, he never found them; but, at last, has been constrained to say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now. His backslidings have reproved him, and his wickedness has corrected him, and made him know, to the breaking of his heart, that it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake the Lord. Jer. ii. 19. For as God thus dealt with the Jewish church of old, so he does with every believer; for all God's dealings with them were for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 1 Cor x. 11. And this now being the case, O believer, and you having alays by your own experience found it so, will you, notwithnding, forsake the Lord? What fault, what iniquity do you
Hos. ii. 6, 7.